Silences, Sounds and Scents

The silence of late night is not really a silence. If one listens carefully, so many different strands of sound slowly start to reveal their identities. Standing under the inverted bowl of a black night sky, I listen.

First comes the incessant music of the crickets. Various voices, pitches and tones. Some loud and insistent. Some subdued. I remember with surprise that I have never really heard the crickets since I was a child. Crickets and fireflies need wilderness and darkness, which our cities have taken away both from them and from us.

The earth lies in folds here. There is always one Tilla (rise) to complement a Loonga (depression). (Both are however are in imminent danger of extinction and would soon become level ground to cope with the pressure of housing; Iā€™d give them another ten years, at the most.) The Loongas are veritable tangled forests, where no braveheart dares to go.


When I walk at night with my son, my eyes are totally trained on the earth, not because I am particularly demure or am living in a Taliban ruled country, where a woman is not permitted to look a man in the eye, but for the simple reason that I do not wish to have a disastrous rendezvous with night travellers from the Loongas, who unlike me, are equipped with poisonous fangs. But the night music from these dangerous zones is mesmerizing, incessant and undulating. I wonder what is it that they have to say to each other, each night. I long to understand the language of the crickets.

The Cicadas were less in evidence this year; they come into their element immediately after the winter cold recedes. For such small creatures their decibel level is quite deafening- still I missed them and for a long time kept hoping for cicada encounters, only to be disappointed.

The tall trees towering inside and over the Loongas are home to a thriving bat colony. The bats have a daily routine of wheeling-dealing-free-for-all on early mornings and evenings. They have wingspans comparable to that of the Indian Jungle Crow, which is not a small bird. The bats also are great at communication; the sky is filled both these times with literally hundreds of hunting bats, who seem to become afflicted with talkativeness as well as restlessness.

Then there are the winged ones of the night- Owls are sacred birds; sacred to goddesses of the East and ancient Egypt. They have a peculiar unnerving and unblinking stare that seems to see right into the soul, which probably contributed to the sacredness. They sit silently in utter stillness and then suddenly swoop down and up in one single fluid, graceful moment.

There seems to be multiple species of owls here, to judge from their hoots and the feathers I find lying on the ground. Most of the nights in July and August I am forced to fall asleep to the sound of what can only be described as communication via wild screeches.


The darkness settles comfortably like a warm and scented wrap- the summer air is wet on most evenings, thanks to the Indian monsoon, and is perfumed by the night flowering jasmine and frangipani. The land sleeps and slowly, the inhabitants too.


4 thoughts on “Silences, Sounds and Scents

  1. Manoj KC says:

    Longing for such wilderness… My two homes, Bangalore and Calicut unfortunately cannot offer this. Good narration Sylvia, enjoyed reading it.
    Incidentally, the first thought that came to me was about snakes… be careful..

    • Thank you Manoj and glad you enjoyed it. Snakes abound here; I lived in fear the first year, because people had experienced them coming inside the house; we have a ground floor house btw. So kept peering fearfully into all dark corners. Now that there have been no close encounters, I have relaxed my guard. We are coexisting in peace. šŸ™‚

  2. You made me nostalgic! I went back to that earliest part of my childhood that I can remember I spent in the beautiful Arunachal Pradesh. We used to leave in Sarkari accommodation on a tilla surrounded by hills, rivers and rivulets (we used to take bath in one everyday). Where night was synonymous with cries of cricket! And snakes! They were everywhere, once even sleeping with a baby! Never any harm came to anybody though. Your language is so lyrical and you seem to paint a vivid picture! Somehow you remind me of Arundhati Roy.

    • If I took you back to some lovely memories, then my musings have not been in vain. What a lovely childhood you had! At what age dis you leave Arunachal?Somehow we have never talked on this. The snakes here too have not been known to harm; even though they are venomous. Sometimes they come inside the houses too, as old timers kept telling me. Never met one inside; but at sites, yes.

      Thank you for such a sweet compliment. Arundhati is a brave and strong woman; whom I admire a lot- so any comparison (don’t know how much deserved) to her is a great honour to me. šŸ™‚

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